The Sri Lankan government which rejected a move by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to appoint a Commissioner on Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law said yesterday the push for a “punitive role” by a few commonwealth countries could cause a split in the organisation.
Speaking to the diplomatic community yesterday External Affairs Minister G.L Peiris said he had pointed out four areas of contention regarding the proposed recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of the Commonwealth regarding the establishment of the commissioner’s office and role.
“I pointed out that the establishment of such a commissioner, that is the administrative arm of such an organization, as it is not logical prior to a charter that delineates the ambit of the organization,” he said.
He said it was far more important to strengthen the present institutions before new ones were established and also opposed the reallocation of finances for these new proposals.
The minister said the report proposed that the commissioner would look into matters where there was a “serious and persistent violation of human rights”.
“This is a subjective judgment and Uganda spoke up very strongly that this was far too intrusive a process,” he said.
The minister had expressed in his brief to the Lankan cabinet that “concerns were expressed on the revitalization of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) as contained in the EPG report.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain were among the few who spoke in favour of these recommendations of the EPG. This demonstrated that it is a few players of the Association who are pursuing the inclusion of a punitive role, which could cause a split in the Organisation.”
Addressing the diplomatic community the minister also warned that excessive pressure on Sri Lanka would be counterproductive.
“Talks with the TNA and all Tamil parties are important and the future of Sri Lanka and means far more to us than to any other government. However pressure beyond a particular point to speed up these talks will not be of much help,” he warned.